Baked Ziti With Eggplant & Chicken Sausage is a pasta dish perfect for the holidays. Al dente penne pasta tossed in a tangy tomato sauce, along with tender apple chicken sausage and cinnamon-dusted roasted eggplant, is what you need on your dinner table. Top all that tastiness off with a gracious helping of mozzarella cheese, and you have the perfect anytime meal that’s ready in no time.
This post has been written in partnership with Barilla. All opinions are mine alone.
A family-style pasta recipe means less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the dish with family and friends. And when we make pasta, our go-to is Barilla. We’ve used Barilla for several years in many pasta dishes.
Now let’s jump into this baked goodness, shall we?
Baked ziti is the definition of comfort food. Pasta layered with tomato sauce, your choice of veggies and/or proteins, and topped off with a layer of cheese then baked in the oven —that’s an easy and satisfying dinner you have right there.
Which pasta is best for baked ziti?
Although the dish is typically made using ziti pasta (hence the name), you can also use penne. Both are great for baking as they hold their shape and the noticeable ridges on the pasta’s exterior mean they do a fantastic job at soaking all the sauces and seasoning and stick well to that creamy cheese. The major difference between the two is ziti’s ends are cut in a straight line, versus penne is cut diagonally. Since both are cylinder-shaped, you can opt for ziti or penne pasta to create this dish, and both work great.
The spiced roasted eggplant combined with apple chicken sausage is my secret ingredient that really brings out those holiday vibes. The light dusting (with cinnamon) and roasting of the eggplant give off a fragrant aroma, enhancing the eggplant by invoking a warm sweet flavor. Did I say cinnamon? Yep, trust me on this one.
The apple chicken sausage adds a slight sweetness to this dish — and it’s also less sodium and calories than your typical sausage. These two together are the perfect match when balanced by the tomato sauce.
Ingredients you’ll need to make baked ziti:
One 16 oz. box of Barilla Ziti or PennePasta will do the trick. Once you combine all the ingredients, you’ll easily be able to fill a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.
You’ll saute sliced apple chicken sausage and yellow onions together.
For the roasted eggplant, you’ll toss cubed eggplant with Himalayan salt, ground cinnamon, black pepper, and olive oil.
You’ll start with crushed (regular and fire-roasted) tomatoes and enhance the sauce from there by adding grated parmesan cheese, minced garlic, black pepper, garlic powder, and Himalayan salt.
Once the dish’s individual components are done, fold them all together and incorporate additional seasonings: oregano, black pepper, ground thyme, tarragon, and Himalayan salt.
And we can’t forget about the cheese! While layering the baked ziti, add some more parmesan cheese and top it all off with mozzarella cheese.
How to make baked ziti:
You will begin this dish by cutting your whole eggplant into medium-sized cubes (don’t forget to remove the leafy ends).
Place the eggplant onto a baking dish and sprinkle evenly with eggplant seasonings and finish them off with a drizzle of olive oil.
Bake the eggplant for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Give them a quick toss halfway through baking to ensure they roast evenly. Set them to the side when done.
Begin the sauce by adding crushed tomatoes and fire-roasted crushed tomatoes(paid link) to a cooking pot on low heat. Add all tomato sauce ingredients into the pot and stir. Cooking for 10 minutes.
Cut your yellow onion into small pieces, then slice the apple chicken sausage. Saute them both together on medium heat until the onions are translucent and the sausage is slightly browned.
Cook your Barilla Penne pasta as instructed, then drain and add to a large bowl.
To the penne pasta, add the tomato sauce, roasted eggplant, chicken sausage & onions, and 1/2 (8 oz.) of the mozzarella cheese. Fold everything together.
Pour half of the pasta mixture into a 9X13 baking dish, layer with a 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, then top off with the remaining pasta mixture.
Top off with the remaining mozzarella cheese and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
While baking, the pasta will fill your home with an aroma that will attract everyone near to the kitchen.
Barilla pasta is a great option and has been one of our family favorites for years. If you love baked pasta dishes and are looking for a main course to showcase on your holiday table, this Baked Ziti Eggplant and Apple Chicken Sausage is delicious, and it will not disappoint. Happy holidays!